Oculus Rift vs HTC Vive: Which VR headset is best?

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive at a glance

The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are the two best virtual reality (VR) headsets to reach the market. Both headsets boast impressive specs, including two high res (1080 x 1200) OLED lenses and built-in camera, mic and audio. The downside of this: these headsets will only work with powerful PCs. Aside from linking up with your smartphone to take calls, don’t expect to be streaming games from any portable devices.

When first released, many gamers hailed the HTC Vive the superior of the two headsets. Mainly because HTC have added a vital part to their VR headset’s package, touch control. The HTC Wands enriched the VR experience by allowing the virtual world to track your hand movements. Oculus lagged behind, with its virtual universe limited to the field of vision alone.

Fast-forward to today and Oculus has released their own touch controls, Oculus Touch, bringing the two headsets onto a more level playing field. Now, we can look beyond the necessity of touch controls and compare the two on their all-around VR experience.

Buy Oculus Rift from Currys | £499
Buy HTC Vive from Currys | £759

VR headset design

As the idea of VR is to transport you into another world, it seems appropriate to judge the design of the headsets on comfort. The more comfortable you are, the easier it is to forget you’re relying on a headset to connect to this ‘other world’.

Both headsets weigh in at 470g, which makes them light to pick up. But after 45 minutes of gaming, you’ll feel the headsets pulling on your neck as your muscles strain under the extra load. Also, expect to be left with a faint visor-shaped mark on your face after playing, whichever headset you’re using.

For comfort, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive come with foam padding around the visor. On the Oculus, this extends to a foam cushion on the back which cradles your head. Due to the added padding and a visor strap that fits your head shape, the Oculus is more comfortable than the HTC Vive.

Oculus Rift Headset

Oculus Rift Headset

Setting up the VR headsets

The latest version of the Oculus Rift is incredibly easy to get up and to run. You’ll have the device ready in minutes, as soon as you’ve worked out which cables go where.

Setting up the HTC Vive isn’t so straightforward. After you’ve downloaded the software and registered your firmware, you’ll need to put up the room sensors. The room sensors need to be placed high up at around 2m and tilted downwards to cover a wide area. In the box, you’ll find brackets to mount the sensors, which you’ll need to screw to your wall.

Setting up the HTC Vive is a faff. So, make sure you put aside an hour (minimum) and get all the steps out the way on one go.

The VR gaming experience

Now we get to the fun stuff. What kind of gaming experience do these headsets provide?

To create a good VR experience, it’s important that a headset’s sensors accurately track your movement. There’s nothing more annoying than having to exaggerate movements to see a response to the game. The Oculus Rift has no trouble with this. It accurately tracks every raise and turn of your head, which makes games far more immersive.

The gripe with the Oculus Rift is that it isn’t packaged with its touch controls – you must fork out another £99.00 for these. And not having touch controls does limit your VR experience. As the game responds to your head movements, you naturally want it to do the same with your hands. Instead, you’re left holding the Xbox One controller and feeling as though your expectations for VR have only been half met. Oculus needs to bite the bullet on this one and package the two together.

The HTC Vive’s sensors might be a pain to put up, but they’re vital to achieving a complete VR experience. The sensors will track your every movement and translate this into the game, so you become part of the action. You’ll often hear this referred to as room-scale, which simply means the game registers the clear space in your room to allow more flexibility when moving.

You can set the space range tracked by the sensors to 2m x 1.5m or more. Some games will require you to clear a greater space, ready to duck, dive and shoot to your heart’s content. Also, you won’t have to worry about knocking things over. HTC’s chaperone fence flags if you’re dangerously close to an object in the game by pausing the game to show you your real-world surroundings.

HTC Vive Product Set

HTC Vive: controllers, headset, basestation

The biggest snag with the HTC Vive is the cables attaching you to your PC. The more immersed you get in the game, the more likely you are to tangle yourself in these cables. It’s a small nuisance in what is otherwise a fantastic gaming experience.

Range of games on offer

The Oculus Store hosts an array of games for different people’s tastes. Some of these games stand out, such as EVE: Valkyrie (trailer below). However, all games are of a high standard and unlikely to disappoint. What’s more, there are games compatible with the Oculus Rift not found on the Store. For example, the old-school classic, Minecraft.

It is more challenging to select games on the HTC Vive. For some reason, you can start games from two areas: Steam VR and Vive Home. These two areas do the same thing, so it’s odd that HTC hasn’t combined them.

Also, the HTC Vive’s games don’t quite match those available on the Oculus. Some are entertaining, such as Audio shield, a game which has you shielding against multi-coloured orbs while playing your PC’s music library in the background. Overall, the HTC’s games aren’t as involved, and you’ll feel less excited when returning to them again and again.

Which VR headset is best?

Both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have their issues. In the case of the Oculus Rift, it’s frustrating that the touch controls don’t come packaged with the headset. It is especially irritating because the touch controls are very user-friendly and more ergonomic than HTC’s wands.

Meanwhile, the HTC Vive is held back in a couple of places. Firstly, its games aren’t as engaging as those available for most games consoles. Also, setting it up is a bit of a pain.

Of course, some problems affect both. The need to attach cables is always going to restrict movement while gaming to some extent. While the field of view is not extending to your peripheral vision is another reminder that you’re not really in the game.

Taking everything into account, the Oculus Rift (when paired with its touch controls) is the better headset. The games might not scale to your room in the way that the HTC Vive’s do, but the accuracy with which the headset tracks your movements creates a similarly immersive experience. Of course, the other benefit of this is that you don’t need to clear a big a space to use the headset – something that will please other halves and housemates up and down the country.

Oculus Rift on Man

Oculus Rift and HTC Vive product specs

 Oculus Rift HTC Vive
Pricecirca £499.00circa £759.00
Resolution1260 X 12001260 X 1200
Field of view110° 110°
Tracking area5 x 11 feet15 x 15 feet
Oculus Touch, Xbox One controllerVive controller, any PC compatible gamepad
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960 / AMD Radeon RX 470 or greaterNVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 /AMD Radeon RX 480 equivalent or greater
Intel Core i3-6100 / AMD FX4350 or greaterIntel Core i5-4590 equivalent or greater
Compatible HDMI 1.3 video outputCompatible HDMI 1.3 video output
2x USB 3.0 ports1x USB 2.0 port
Windows 7 SP1 or newerWindows 7 SP1 or greater